Research: OTT in 64% US homes

Market research and consulting company Parks Associates has released its updated list of the top 10 subscription over-the-top (OTT) video services in the US market, based on estimated number of subscribers. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu continue to hold the top three slots, with HBO Now and Starz moving into the top five.

1. Netflix
2. Prime Video Users (Amazon Prime)
3. Hulu (SVoD)
4. HBO Now
5. Starz
7. Showtime
8. CBS All Access
9. Sling TV
10. DirecTV Now

“Which company is the leading OTT video subscription service remains a topic of debate,” said Brett Sappington, Senior Director of Research, Parks Associates. “According to our estimates, Amazon has more Prime Members than Netflix has subscribers. However, when you consider only those Prime Members that use Prime Video, Netflix is the largest. Hulu remains the third largest but continues to grow its subscriber base.”

The firm notes the rise of a second tier of OTT video services from services with recognised brands, including several with high profile original content. Online pay-TV services Sling TV and DirecTV NOW round out the top ten, ahead of similar services Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, and PlayStation Vue. Online pay TV has been one of the fastest growing segments in the OTT video space, with aggressive marketing by all.

“HBO, Starz, Showtime, and CBS All Access demonstrate the powerful attractiveness of original content through series like Game of Thrones and Star Trek: Discovery,” Sappington said. “This pattern suggests new services such as WarnerMedia’s DC Universe and the forthcoming streaming service from Disney could achieve success quickly.”

The top subscription sports OTT video services are MLB.TV, WWE Network, and ESPN+. MLB.TV continues to lead the sports OTT subscription category, benefiting from its long tenure as a streaming service and popularity among dedicated baseball fans. WWE also has a dedicated fan base and publicly reported having over 1.2 million US subscribers at the end of Q3 2018. ESPN+ is a newcomer to the OTT video marketplace but recently announced that it had exceeded 1 million subscribers.

Additional data from Parks Associates’ OTT Video Market Tracker, which tracks the content offerings, business strategies, and subscription numbers for OTT services in North America:

– OTT video subscription penetration has reached 64 per cent of US broadband households. Over two-thirds subscribe only to one of the top three services, Netflix, Prime Video, or Hulu.
– The online pay-TV audience is similar to the OTT audience—they are younger and quicker to adopt new technologies when compared to traditional pay-TV households.
– Over the past three years, OTT churn rates have gradually fallen each year from 31 per cent of OTT subscriptions cancelled each year in 2015 to 28 per cent in 2018.

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Q2 US pay-TV subs fall but OTT prospers

Strategy Analytics’ analysis of US pay-TV subscriber numbers shows Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (vMVPDs) with 868,000 net adds in Q2 bringing the total number of vMVPD subscribers to 6.73 million, up 119 per cent YoY.

Despite this, overall pay-TV subscribers (cable, satellite, IPTV, vMVPD) fell to 93.78 million, breaking a string of two consecutive quarters of growth, according to a Strategy Analytics’ Television & Media Strategies report, which examined the subscriber bases of 27 public traded and private pay-TV operators, accounting for 97 per cent of all pay-TV subscriptions.

“While the entire vMVPD segment is growing, AT&T’s DirecTV NOW deserves special notice,” said Michael Goodman, Director, Television & Media Strategies, given how rapidly it has grown in a fairly short period of time. If it continues on its current growth trajectory it will overtake Sling TV as the largest vMVPD in early 2019.”

In comparison, Qq 2018 was not particularly kind to legacy pay-TV providers (e.g., cable, satellite, IPTV) as they lost nearly as many subscribers (-973,000) as the prior two quarters combined (-1.16 millio). In Q2 2018, total legacy pay-TV subscriptions fell to 87.05 million, down 3.6 per cent YoY.

“Historically, pay-TV in the US has consisted of cable, satellite, and IPTV; however, the introduction of over-the-top pay-TV services, commonly referred to as vMVPDs, necessitates a change in our thinking,” said Goodman. “What we have commonly referred to as pay-TV (cable, satellite, and IPTV) should now be referred to as legacy pay-TV, while the definition of pay-TV should include vMVPDs.”

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Netflix hits new high as subs soar in Q3

For the quarter ended 30 September 2017, Netflix’s global streaming revenue rose 33% year-on-year, driven by a 24% increase in average paid memberships and 7% growth in ASP. Operating income nearly doubled year-over-year to $209 million with a Q3 global operating margin of 7%.

Driving the spike in revenues was a Q3 record of 5.3 million additional global memberships, up 49% annually, a continued result, said the company, of strong appetite for its original series and films, as well as the general increased demand for online video and TV across the world. Year to date net adds of 15.5 million were up 29% versus the same period in 2016. Regionally the company reported 850,000 streaming additions in the US to total 52.77 million out of a global total of 109.25 million. Non-US subscriptions were up 4.45 million in the quarter.

Looking towards the fourth quarter, Netflix forecast global net adds of 6.30 million, 1.25 million in the US and 5.05 million internationally. Even though it acknowledged the recent price rises in key markets, Netflix was confident that the increased revenue over time would help it grow it content offering and continue its global operating margin growth.

Key to growth would be original titles, it said. Netflix noted that even though it had multi-year deals in place preventing any sudden reduction in content licensing, the long-term trends were clear: its future largely lies in exclusive original content which it says “drives both excitement around Netflix and enormous viewing satisfaction for our global membership and its wide variety of tastes”. The company’s investment in Netflix originals was over a quarter of its total P&L content budget in 2017 and was set continue to grow.

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US pay-TV subs decline by more than 800,000 in Q1 2017

A pick up in speed in traditional multi-channel defections is being cited by research firm Kagan as the prime reason for an estimated loss of 802,000 subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

Worryingly, the company’s First Quarter US Multichannel Subscriber Report calculated that this represented a 0.8% decline in what has historically been a strong first three months of the year.

Key drivers of the drop were found to include the impact of new streaming options which, said Kagan, suggests an important component of the loss comes from a shift in platforms within the familiar subscription construct rather than outright cord-cutting. The estimated total of traditional multi-channel subscriptions fell to 97.0 million in the first quarter. Adding estimated subscribers from virtual services including Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue, brought the combined total subscriptions to a package of live linear channels and on-demand content to 99.2 million.

Assessing how individual platforms performed, Kagan found that cable operators posted their worst first-quarter performance since 2013, losing 188,000 total video customers. Yet this was a smaller loss than posted by direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and telecommunications (telco) competitors.

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